31 August, 2020, Bengaluru: Quoting American economist Paul Romeron on how “a crisis is a terrible time to waste,” General Secretary of the Foundation for Democratic Reforms and former bureaucrat Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan explained to IIMB students how, in a layered society, it is challenging to engineer change in a predictable manner. “However, a crisis creates a convergence of circumstances that creates change,” he remarked.
Need for change
Dr. Narayan explained that we all recognize the fact that in the public domain, there is a yearning for change. “The government is an artificial construct with an explicit objective of fulfilling our needs. Thus, individual needs can be taken care of, but to take care of collective needs, the government has to step in,” he said.
Role of government
Apart from the apparent functions involving defence and currency regulation, the government has to first take care of the rule of law, i.e., equality before the law and nobody above the law. Secondly, the government has to deliver on public goods such as infrastructure, traffic management, and transport facilities, which can only be built by the government. Thirdly, the government has to create a framework for quality education. Without the government playing an active role and providing quality education, we would not be able to participate in wealth creation. Lastly, the government has to facilitate and provide quality healthcare for everyone. Dr. Narayan concluded his lecture by saying that in a large proportion of these areas, India has performed poorly. Thus, we need change desperately.
Drivers of change
Dr. Narayan emphasized that a crisis has always driven change. He listed four change drivers: science, technology and knowledge, cultural forces, economic forces, and political forces. “In times of crisis, there is a convergence of all four forces, which leads to change,” he said.
Role of managers
On the role of managers, Dr. Narayan explained how one must examine issues without any distortion and understand the power of the concept. “Managers must go by the problem at hand and seize the moment by systematically persuading”.
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Quoting Bill Gates, Dr Narayan observed how we tend to overestimate our capacity to bring short-term change and underestimate our capacity to bring about a big change in the long-term. “To bring change in the public policy domain, we must set our targets with the twinkle of the distant star and not the lights of the passing ships,” he said.
In his closing remarks, Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan pointed out that most challenges have politically feasible and socially acceptable solutions. “We have to understand these problems, innovate on them regularly, and hammer them until the last person and policymaker pays attention. We are in a fantastic age where we can communicate with any part of the country that was not possible 30 years ago. We have the resources and technology; together, we can develop genuine and innovative solutions that can scale this country to new heights,” he said.
The webinar had 150 participants.
About the speaker: Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan is an ex-civil services officer, IAS batch of 1980 (AIR #4), founder of the political party Lok Satta, General Secretary of Foundation for Democratic Reforms, and has been a member of various national panels. In his 16 years of service in the public administration and 24+ years to date as a politician, he has made ground-breaking strides in the realm of public policy for democratic and political reforms. In this journey, he has been instrumental in driving three constitutional amendments and 15+ landmark legislative acts and has always been a supporter of invigorating and encouraging youth to enter politics and shape the nation.
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